When Lake Mary Life's Chip Colandreo is off the clock, he and his adorable daughter, Grace, spend quality time together. That father-daughter time is spent doing the things they both enjoy – like going to local wrestling shows and cheering on their favorite superstars.
By Chip Colandreo
I am not ashamed to say that I, Chip Colandreo, am a professional wrestling aficionado. I love it. It's Theater of the Absurd at its finest. And it can be, if you know where and how to look, a surprisingly sophisticated entertainment medium. I am not alone in this appreciation. Among its movers and shakers, Seminole County boasts a tight network of wrestling superfans, a group that includes plenty of names you know, people you do business with, and folks you've voted for.
Personally, my fandom is made even more enjoyable by one very special partner in Cryme Tyme (<-- that's a wrestling reference). It's my 10-year-old daughter, Grace.
Going to local wrestling shows is kind of "our thing." The daddy/daughter excursions are something we anticipate and enjoy about once a month. We both don the T-shirts of our favorite superstars – currently "The Perfect 10" Tye Dillinger for me and Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura for her – and journey to Full Sail University where the behemoth World Wrestling Entertainment conglomerate films TV shows for its developmental promotion, NXT. The shows are broadcast to millions of wrestling fans around the world via the online WWE Network service.
The filmings start at about 6:00 p.m. and often last well past 10:00, but we're always having way too much fun to tire. Candy and snacks are plentiful in the lobby of Full Sail Live, the university's live-event and concert venue, which seats about 300 fans. Tickets are nearly impossible to get unless you follow the promotion religiously. At any given filming, about 80% of the crowd are regulars, and Grace and I are proud to count ourselves among them. Production values for these shows are through the roof, as WWE uses NXT as its minor-league system to prepare up-and-coming wrestlers for the bright lights and big stages of the WWE shows that regularly fill basketball and football stadiums around the country. Grace and I delight in seeing our favorite performers graduate and move up to the main WWE roster.
Grace is a purist. She cheers the good guys and boos the bad guys right on cue. I tend to be more nuanced. I appreciate fine character work on either side of the moral fence. I've been known to clap and cheer when a bad guy delivers an especially biting one-liner during a pre-match promo, and I can count on Grace to smack me on the arm anytime I do.
I'm always worried she'll eventually grow out of it, so I never assume Grace wants to go to the next show. I check with her every time as I stalk the internet in the moments before tickets for the next filming go on sale. To my wonderful surprise, she's always just as excited as I, though she'll never be able to appreciate "our thing" as much as I do.
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